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Congratulations! After writing and rewriting your resume, scouring the want ads, reaching out to people in your network for guidance, and numerous job interviews, you’ve finally landed your dream job. Now the question is, how much money is someone in your position worth and what can you do to maximize that figure? Some people, myself included, do not enjoy negotiating and often find themselves paying the sticker price for a car and taking the first salary offered in a new job. But I think you’ll find that with some research, and a bit of luck, you can maximize your rate of pay and get the most from your new position.

The first step to any salary negotiation is, of course, finding how what the average rate of pay for your position is. The site that I tend to use most often to accomplish this is http://www.salary.com. They do a great job of keeping up on the national averages for a wide variety of positions. The only issue with them is that they can sometimes get too wide and there will be dozens of job titles under one search. It’s best to be as specific as you can be and filter the search results based on your field. The site also offers a variety of tools and graphs that you can use to compare job titles. A search on their site indicates that the current salary for a Computer Support Specialist in the Milwaukee area is $45,000 which, based on experience, is basically correct.

As an aside, a wonderful web site that I’ve found and have used in the past is http://www.payscale.com. They have a variety of tools that will help you determine your worth as an employee, including a Salary Survey that allows you to compare your offer against the average for your area.

Once you have this information, you will now want to compare it to what your new employer is offering. Keep in mind that just because they are offering you the job, doesn’t mean you need to accept immediately. It is best to take some time, do your research, and accept based on what you find. When the offer call or e-mail does come in, also make sure to ask about benefits and consider that along with the salary. Even if the salary is lower than average, some of the benefits that come with it such as great health insurance or an abundance of vacation time can make up for that.

Once you have done the research and determined how the offer compares to the average, you should then contact them with a counter offer. With this counter, it’s important to be enthusiastic but also realistic. If your employer contacts you offering you a salary of $50,000 and you counter with $60,000, chances are those negotiations won’t end well. Keep in mind the average for your position and negotiate based on that. Even if you counter with a salary that is higher than the average, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the employer won’t consider it as long as it isn’t an outlandish amount. Countering a $50,000 offer with $53,000 is going to help you a lot more than “shooting for the stars.”

In terms of what the best way is to negotiate, that is entirely up to you. Some people are comfortable with negotiating face-to-face or over the phone. Others prefer to do it over e-mail where they can more thoughtfully craft their responses. In my experience, the best route to go is to respond in the same way that they presented the offer. If the job offer was e-mailed to you, it is acceptable to respond to that e-mail with your salary requirements. If they called, it’s best to call back to discuss. E-mail, while convenient, still feels impersonal to many people and some still prefer to speak directly rather than type.

However you decide to negotiate your salary, if you even do, I wish you nothing but success. Keep in mind that this new job is a stepping stone into a new career and just because you are making one amount now, doesn’t mean that things will be the same in a year. There is still a lot of benefit to hard work and committing yourself to your new position.